Mass Cultural Council logo
Rehearsal before the El Sistema showcase
Home / Creative Youth Development / META Fellowship / History and Background

META Fellowship

History and Background

The META Fellowship Pilot program was based on the belief that music educators and teaching artists play a critical role in supporting youth along the music pathway, connecting them to opportunities and providing mentorship. In addition, both The Klarman Family Foundation and Mass Cultural Council heard from music educators and teaching artists that they had an interest in developing the skills, relationships, and experiences required to thrive in community arts settings.

META Fellowship Pilot (October 2016 – August 2018)

The Foundation and Mass Cultural Council came together in Fall of 2016 to pilot the META Fellowship with the goal of strengthening the youth music training pathway by:

  • Enhancing the practice of music educators/teaching artists and their impact on youth
  • Developing stronger connections between music educators/teaching artists and greater awareness of the resources available to benefit the youth they serve
  • Developing a model for long term replication

The two-year pilot program featured a learning community comprised of one to two music educators or teaching artists (“Fellows”) from invited organizations meeting over the course of two years. The Fellows, with the support of their organizations, committed to:

  • Participating in four group learning sessions or convenings per year;
  • Conducting two site visits annually to programs of other participating organizations; and
  • Developing and presenting a group project at the end of year two with the goal of creating and documenting new knowledge for broader dissemination within the represented organizations.

All Fellows received $800 annually for their participation and could access up to $3,000 for professional and artistic development.

The Fellows

Fifty-two individuals participated in the pilot. Forty-three completed the full two years. About the Fellows:

  • The vast majority of Fellows had formal music education, either holding a Bachelor’s of Music or Master’s degree, most often in performance with a small number in music education. Only two Fellows had no formal post-secondary education and two had non-music degrees.
  • The Fellows taught at over 25 non-profit organizations and five schools (public, parochial, and charter). The Fellows offered a broad range of music instruction (e.g. classical, jazz, pop, vocal) at a range of levels from introductory to mastery.
  • The cohort was diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, age, and level of experience.

Impact of the META Fellowship

An external evaluation of the META Fellowship pilot demonstrated success in enhancing the practice of music educators and their impact on students and in developing stronger connections among music educators. META Fellows reported improved classroom management and lesson/curriculum planning, and greater motivation for and engagement with teaching.


The Fellows reported that a valuable aspect of participating was meeting peers and colleagues and having a better sense of being part of a community via networking. Many of them said that they feel a much stronger sense of connection to the community of other music educators and teaching artists, and that this connection enabled them to improve their teaching and sense of agency. That said, it was challenging to tailor the convenings to the correct level given the range in Fellows’ experience and training


These grants were valuable for Fellows to pursue their personal passions and interests. Many shared they had experienced few if any similar opportunities previously in their professional life. However, some Fellows experienced challenges in utilizing this resource due to time, knowledge, and lack of clarity regarding the grant opportunity.


Fellows shared that they gained valuable insight by visiting and observing their peers in teaching settings. They said these experiences expanded their perspectives and supported their learning. Fellows recommended that the program should improve mechanisms for sharing these experiences with peers.


Fellows reported that these group projects were a good opportunity to pursue ideas that were important and valuable to the field. However, Fellows found that the time required for the projects exceeded expectations, and they wanted more visibility for each project at the showcase event.

Overall, the evaluation demonstrated that the pilot had been a positive experience for the Fellows and that it would be worth continuing with an additional cohort.

META Fellowship – Second Cohort (2018-2020)

In 2018 Mass Cultural Council and The Klarman Family Foundation launched the second cohort of META fellows.  Based on the evaluation of the pilot, the program followed a similar model and had similar components. The one significant change was a deeper investment in exploring issues of racial equity in music and learning and the role of trauma informed care in the practice of Music Educators and Teaching Artists.The evaluation of the program found improved results for the value of sessions and the impact on practice.

The final showcase of the second cohort was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, however the projects that Fellows developed are include on in the Fellow Created Resources page.

META Fellowship – Third Cohort (2021-2023)

After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mass Cultural Council and The Klarman Family Foundation launched a third cohort of META Fellows in the Fall of 2021. The entire first year was held virtually as the public health situation continued to evolve. As we look ahead to year two we are hoping to bring this dynamic group of educators together in person to continue to share effective practices, build resources, and build community.

Back to Top